Thursday, February 28, 2019

How to Unify the Nation

This Shabbat we read in the Torah both parashat Vayakhel and the special Torah portion for parashat Shekalim, that describes the half shekel donation given in Temple times to the Temple treasury to support the Temple’s budget, but also to serve as a way of conducting a census of the nation.

Parashat Vayakhel’s opening verses (Exodus 35) juxtapose two major themes: the mandate to construct a mishkan -- a portable tabernacle, with the call to observe the Sabbath. Prior to mentioning both of these lofty directives, Moses gathers all of the Children of Israel.

A famed Chassidic Rebbe, Rabbi Abraham Bornstein, the first Rebbe of Sochatchov (1838-1910, Poland) found significance in the order of the three items that are mentioned in the opening verses of Vayakhel: 1) first a call to unify and to gather the nation, 2) then an admonition to observe the Sabbath, and 3) only then are the people encouraged to erect the Tabernacle. Rabbi Bornstein points out that prior to consecrating the Tabernacle, individual Israelites would sacrifice to God on bamot, elevated stages that were found throughout the Israelite camp. With the consecration of the Tabernacle, use of the bamot became prohibited. As the sacrificial order became unified, the Jewish nation was united with the Tabernacle serving as the nation’s headquarters. For this reason, advances the Sochatchover Rebbe, the command to unify and gather came first, followed by Shabbat, the special sacred day that holds the secret of Jewish unity. Only after those first two levels of unity are established, does the third take place, centralizing Jewish worship by consecrating the Tabernacle.

This coming Friday night is the 23rd annual SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA, which has transformed the Divine mandate and the Divine gift of Shabbat into an international movement and phenomenon. SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA‘s goal has always been to unify North American Jewry through the sanctity of Shabbat. NJOP has passionately endeavored to bond Jews to their Jewish birthright and heritage. When we celebrate Shabbat together, the observance is ennobled, and becomes more uplifting, uniting us all.  https://njop.org/programs/shabbat/saac/

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